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Packers: Cornerback Davon House regains confidence in return to Green Bay

August 1, 2017

GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy can see the difference.

The Green Bay Packers coach remembers the Davon House who played for him for four years (2011 through 2014), the guy who went into a crucial late-2014 game against the Atlanta Falcons — one in which the Packers were in full-on meltdown mode, allowing a big lead to evaporate — and shut down wide receiver Julio Jones, which no one else had been able to do all game long.

McCarthy also remembers the House he saw on film in advance of last year’s regular-season opener at Jacksonville, the one who looked nothing like the physical, confident kid he’d been for the Jaguars in his first season. Playing in a new scheme with a new coverage philosophy, House just looked lost.

Now, with House back with the Packers after his two-year stint in Jacksonville, McCarthy once again sees the confident cornerback who initially made his name in Green Bay for being the “Jordy Killer” — the one guy who could effectively neutralize the team’s best receiver.

“Going into the game — we played Jacksonville obviously early, the first game of the year — my recollection was Davon wasn’t playing with as much confidence as he obviously practiced with Saturday,” McCarthy said Monday morning, referring to the team’s first in-pads practice of camp two days earlier. “I thought he had an excellent day at practice Saturday.

“He’s got an excellent skill set, he really fits to the way we like to play, and it’s great to have him back. But I think a lot of those things, particularly playing the corner — the corner position in this league, you talk about being out there on an island — confidence is a big part of their success.”

Four practices into camp, only one of the Packers’ cornerbacks has lined up with the No. 1 defense at every practice — House, who returned on a one-year, $2.85 million deal in March after the Jaguars released him.

For the third straight practice, it was House and rookie second-round pick Kevin King on the outside and 2015 second-round pick Quinten Rollins in the slot, a lineup that is different from what the first-day grouping had been (House and LaDarius Gunter outside; Damarious Randall inside).

While McCarthy cautioned earlier this week not to read too much into who lined up with which group, the fact House has been the one constant is a sign that he’s on track to be among the starters when the season opens Sept. 10 against Seattle — even if cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt limits House’s snaps in preseason play to get a longer look at some of his younger colleagues.

Told of McCarthy’s observation of his confidence last season, House said the Jaguars’ decision to change their defensive approach had a lot to do with it.

“I would say my first year in Jacksonville, I was confident and bought in. We were doing a lot of things I agreed with and that helped the defense, and that was to play more man (coverage),” House said. “I thrived at that, as you can tell by the numbers. The next year, there were some things that I didn’t agree with.

“(I) wish we could’ve been more aggressive on the back end and if anything, I didn’t buy in all the way and it was a little bit tougher to agree with some of things we were doing.”

House landed on the bench not long after the season started, which led to his release in March. From the moment that happened, he started dreaming for a Green Bay reunion.

“I was hoping to come back here. I never threw away any of my Packers stuff that I had before. I’m glad I didn’t because I’m going to need it in the cold again,” House said with a laugh. “It was always a wishful thing.”

Now, the Packers are hoping his stabilizing presence helps even out some of the inconsistent play the group had last year.

Never were the Packers cornerbacks’ shortcomings more evident than in the team’s season-ending 44-21 blowout loss to the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, when NFL MVP Matt Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns and Jones torched the Packers for 180 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.

Perhaps having a confident House for the Week 2 rematch at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be a game-changer.

“With guys like that, you can’t say, ‘I’m going to shut him down.’ It’s like shutting down Aaron Rodgers. It’s almost impossible to do,” House said of Jones. “My job is to contain him. (But) I’m going to make some plays for sure.”